Continuing professional development (CPD) is largely offered by private bodies and is market-based. It takes place outside the formal, state-regulated education system and is not usually subject to state supervision. Quality assurance and development is primarily the responsibility of the CPD providers (Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act, Article 8, and Federal Act on Continuing Professional Development, Article 6).
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
There is no national public sector system in place in Switzerland to control the quality assurance and development undertaken by CPD providers and externally evaluate individual schools or CPD providers.
Internal quality assurance and development is common. Applicable quality assurance systems such as the eduQua label, which is specifically tailored to CPD in Switzerland, are widely used by larger providers. eduQua is the only accredited Swiss quality label. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Swiss Federation for Adult Learning (SVEB) are the maintaining bodies for the label. With around 1,000 certified institutions, it is Switzerland’s best-known and most widely used CPD quality label. It sets and reviews 22 standards, and calls for a continuous process of development. The eduQua certification also ensures compliance with official requirements (e.g. for labour market measures). It is valid for three years. Compliance is checked through an annual interim audit. Recertification is carried out after three years.
Additional national and international quality labels and standards in the field of CPD may be found on the SVEB website.
Through the articles on education in the Federal Constitution of 21 May 2006, the Confederation was given the authority to specify the basic principles of CPD (Article 64a of the Federal Constitution). It may promote CPD. With the entry into force of the Federal Act on Continuing Professional Development (Bundesgesetz über die Weiterbildung) in 2017 Switzerland was given its first national Act on CPD. Amongst other things, it stipulates that the Confederation and the cantons may support quality assurance and quality development procedures in order to create transparency of and comparability between CPD courses and qualifications. Quality assurance and development in CPD regulated and supported by the Confederation or the cantons is to be ensured in the following fields in particular: in the information on programmes offered, the qualifications of trainers, the learning programmes, and the qualification procedures.
The Act on CPD also provides for monitoring of CPD participation and the CPD market in CPD (Monitoring zum Weiterbildungsgesetz). The aim is to review the benefit of CPD for society and the economy. The first step is to analyse over a longer period of time whether there is a positive trend in CPD participation by certain groups – namely the low-skilled, older employees, people with a migration background and women.
In job-related CPD the Confederation supports measures which promote the coordination, transparency and quality of CPD programmes. It can make contributions to the cantons for the costs of job-related CPD. Under the Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz) the entitlement to contributions is dependent, inter alia, on adequate quality development measures.
In its 2003 recommendations to the cantons on CPD for adults (Empfehlungen zur Weiterbildung von Erwachsenen), the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) provides state support only for providers who meet specific quality requirements. Thus various cantons make public support for CPD courses dependent on appropriate quality assurance or prescribe a specific quality certification.